The search for a consumer brands’ purpose has become commonplace over the last decade. A brand’s purpose is more than its USP or emotional benefit. It’s a statement of its impact on society and on the world.
When Dove campaigned for real beauty it made other cosmetic brands look shallow and exploitative. Proctor and Gamble CMO Jim Stengel made it the number one priority of every brand in his portfolio. The result: inspiring purposes transformed the fortunes of P&G brands like Old Spice and Always. Now business to business marketers are waking up to the power of purpose-driven marketing.
Great purpose-driven brands are built on an insight into the tensions and contradictions in its consumers’ lives, and an understanding of how that brand resolves the tension. Women want to look attractive, but are oppressed by unattainable images pedalled by the beauty industry. Dove reconciles this by finding the inner beauty in everybody.
Business to business marketing can benefit from this thinking too. Our work lives are as contradictory as our home ones. I want to reduce my company’s carbon footprint, but I don’t want to travel economy. Manufacturers want to source raw materials from non-conflict zones. But they don’t want to pay a premium for that.
IBM was a pioneer of purpose-driven B2B marketing with its ‘Smarter Planet’ repositioning. It transformed perceptions of the company from a trusted IT vendor to a consultant selling joined-up thinking, on a mission to ensure that our world becomes more intelligent, and serves us better.
KPMG’s cutting through complexity work is another great example. The tension: companies and markets are becoming more global and centralised. Financial instruments have grown exponentially in number and sophistication. CFOs suffer from the paradox of choice: the more you have to choose from, the more you doubt you’ve made the optimal decision. KPMG’s promise resolves this beautifully.
Our own work with business to business clients like DS Smith has convinced us of the power of purpose. It transforms sales conversations from price-based ‘beat up the vendor’ sessions to high-level strategy partner discussions. It turns senior managers into industry thought leaders.
Deliotte recently published a survey of fast-tracked millenials in business. These leaders of the future said that the most important role of business was to improve society. To attract that kind of talent, and to escape commodification, more and more B2B clients will be looking for their purpose.